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Non-toxic art supplies

Child Artwork
(Image credit: jdurham via MorgueFile)

As a parent, there is nothing quite as special as the drawings, paintings and other artwork made by my children. I proudly display them on the walls and tables in our home and finally tuck them into a box to save for later, when childhood is just a memory.

Before you run out and stock up on supplies, keep in mind that not all art supplies are created equal. Many popular art materials contain toxic ingredients and may actually be detrimental to your child’s health.

Because of the lax regulations governing the use of chemicals in our country, untested, dangerous chemicals are allowed in many products that we use every day, including art supplies. Children are especially vulnerable to these hidden health hazards because of their small size and immature immune systems.

Lucky for us, there are plenty of non-toxic art supplies available to keep our little artists in business! Keep these tips and suggestions in mind next time you purchase art supplies:

Beware of oil based paints containing chemical solvents like methyl alcohol and toluene that emit dangerous volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Also avoid paints colored with pigments made from highly toxic metals such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead. Children should always use water-based paints instead of oil based paints.

Safer alternatives:

  • Glob – Water based paints made with pigments found in vegetables, fruits, roots, herbs and spices.
  • Clementine Art – Tempura paints made with Mayan mineral earth pigments.
  • Eco-Kids – Finger paint made with fruit, plant and vegetable extracts from annatto seed, beets, carrots, purple sweet potato, red cabbage and spinach, and other natural ingredients.

Many markers contain highly toxic chemical solvents like xylene or are alcohol-based. Stick to water-based markers for kids.

Safer alternatives:

  • Liqui-Mark – Non-toxic water-based markers made with 25% recycled plastic.
  • Note: Water-based markers are safe and easier to clean up too!

Conventional crayons are made with petroleum based paraffin wax and artificial, chemical-based colors.

Safer alternatives:

  • Clementine Art – Natural soy and beeswax crayons colored with mineral pigments.
  • Stockmar – Beeswax crayons made with food-grade pigments that pass tests for detection of pesticide residues, PCB’s and heavy metals.

Colored pencils
Traditional colored pencils use chemical based pigments and may be coated with toxic varnish.

Safer alternatives:

  • Trimax – Natural pencils made from reforested wood with a safe lacquer finish.

Modeling clay and play dough
Polymer clay, used for modeling, is typically made with PVC material and softened with toxic phthalates. Most play dough, although labeled non-toxic, is colored with artificial colors.

Safer alternatives:

  • Pastilina – Vegetable based modeling clay
  • Clementine Art – Modeling dough from made with simple ingredients plus natural colorings like turmeric and spinach.
  • Eco Kids – Handmade eco-dough colored with real ingredients like blueberries, beets and carrots.
  • DIY play dough – Here’s a recipe from Katie at Non-Toxic Kids.

Avoid rubber cement and model glues that emit toxic VOCs. Stick to water-based glue instead.

Safer alternatives:

Art Smocks
Skip smocks made with toxic PVC vinyl material.

Safer alternatives:

  • Mimi the Sardine – Organic cotton with a water-based acrylic coating in adorable prints.

Drawing Pads
Choose eco-friendly art pads to go along with your non-toxic art supplies.

  • Eco Kids – “treeless” paper made from banana fibers and recycled materials
  • Glob – Art pad made from 100% post consumer, recycled, chlorine-free paper.


More Resources:

Disclaimer:  Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families does not specifically endorse purchase or use of any of these products.  This blog post is a resource of possible options for safer non-toxic art supplies.

Note: It has come to our attention that P’kolino paints contain a toxic para-formaldehyde ingredient. Because of this, we removed P’kolino products from the list of recommendations.